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Finding Artistic Inspiration In An Athlete’s World

Claire Zhang

In elementary school, I remember the way that students would worship the fastest runners and fastest swimmers. In middle school, we would gossip about athletes and the latest varsity sweep. Now, in my last year of high school, the same pattern seemed to resurface.

As my eyes fixated on the brightly lit green auditorium stage, I sat listening to the hour long Athlete’s awards we had three times a year. This event was my tenth one in high school. To say the least, it was not my cup of tea. Later that day, my friend came up to me in frustration and asked: “Why doesn’t the school have Arts awards?” Why didn’t we? I realized it there: that none of us could really escape athletics at my school. When you’re an artist, it’s difficult living in an athlete’s world.

Going to a conservative New England boarding school certainly furthered that frustration for me. Frequently, other students judge me for doing art instead of playing lacrosse. Classmates often ask, “What sport are you doing?”, automatically assuming that I play a sport.

They often ridicule the arts as something insignificant, and consequently, don’t take art students as seriously. It’s been a bumpy road being able to push myself to make new artwork while surrounded by soccer and football fields.

Charcoal Drawing, Claire Zhang

For this reason, it’s been discouraging and easy to lose my determination when social norms don’t seem to be on my side. For me, these were things I could do to help me get through my frustration. Hopefully they will help you to.

1) Don’t care about what others say about you.

I know, this might be easier said than done. However, I learned that by focusing all my energy into art, to ignore what others ridicule about your interests, you’ll be able to put 110% of yourself into your artwork. It’s hard to ignore the beaconing of the bleachers and peer pressure to do sports: but it’s important to do what you’re passionate about.

2)  Find peers who love art as much as you do

From attending a summer Pre-College program, I’ve learned by stepping outside of my high school that there are so many people who have the same interests as I do. After realizing that they all came from the same environment at home, it was extremely relieving being able to compare and see the similarities of our frustrations. Talking about what it means to be an artist in the real world was extremely stress relieving and also reassuring.

3) Reach out.

By reaching out to your art teacher and community at school you’ll be able to pursue art as you please. My art teacher in high school has especially been the most impactful for me. From his support, he’s been able to give me innovative ideas for artwork and talk me through my endless frustrations.

Landscape Painting, Claire Zhang

4) Find a local support system.

I’ve found that through the art studio at school, the right support systems will help inspire you to keep working! The key for me was finding the right group of people to help support me along the way.

For me, this was my art co-curricular group at my high school. Having five students in a campus of 600 students was great to help me vent about school stress, and bask in the safe haven that is the art studio.

5) Listen to yourself!

Although we might be living in an athlete’s world, we shouldn’t be afraid of pursuing our passions and interests. What I’ve learned is that you should truly do what you love, and not what everyone else loves.

Don’t worry, because you will find the right support system that share the same interests as you, and your passion will be obvious to those who see you and your work. You’ll be your best self if you do pursue your true interests, and that’s what really counts.

Claire Zhang
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